divorce is a complicated
process. Even when it’s for the best, it can still take quite a bit of emotional
energy and effort to complete. For some, the fear of the process and the
financial disentanglement is what holds them back from filing a much-needed
divorce. The good news is that with the right education and preparation,
the process is less mindboggling, less daunting and easier to confront.
child support and
spousal support obligations, property division, auto loans, health insurance, pensions,
401(k)s, and even determining “who” gets the dogs –
it can all be a bit overwhelming, but much like preparing for a test or
a final exam, the more you know and understand, the more confident you’ll
be throughout your divorce.
Luckily, an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney can help alleviate
your legal stresses, and if you’re fearful of being bullied by your
spouse during the settlement process, your lawyer can advocate on your
behalf, always looking out for your best interests.
Working With Your Divorce Attorney
Your divorce lawyer wants to help you, he or she does not want to be a
burden. However, in order for the processes and procedures to go smoothly,
you’ll need to help your attorney. “How do I help my divorce
lawyer?” The best divorce clients do the following:
- They prepare before their first consultation.
- They are diligent record keepers.
- They become educated on their rights and responsibilities.
- They produce necessary paperwork in a timely manner.
- They are responsive to their attorney.
- They are honest with their lawyer.
- They keep their appointments and scheduled calls with their attorney.
- They show up on time to all scheduled court appearances.
- When in doubt, they ask their attorney.
- They seek their attorney’s advice before acting.
- They treat their spouse with respect.
Just before hiring a divorce lawyer, you can save yourself time and money
by making copies of all the important financial documents before your
initial consultation. When you do this before the initial meeting, you’re
giving your attorney a clear and immediate picture of what your marital
assets are and what could be an issue in your case.
Suppose you’ve been married for eleven years and you and your spouse
have a home worth $800,000, with $100,000 of equity. Your spouse has a
retirement account worth $100,000 and you have none. Your spouse earns
$150,000 a year and you earn $50,000 a year. Other than that, you have
no other assets or debts, save for two auto loans. This information paints
a good picture and would certainly help an attorney prepare you for your
divorce and what to expect financially.
In contrast, suppose your house was upside-down $100,000, you and your
spouse accumulated $30,000 in credit card debt, your spouse is unemployed
and you’re finding it difficult to make ends meet on $65,000 a year,
plus you have about $10,000 in a 401(k). As you can see, this situation
is very different than the first one described above. The lesson here
is that every situation is different. The more your attorney knows at
the beginning about your financial situation, the better position he or
she will be in to project the course that your divorce is likely to take.
What Issues Do I Need to Discuss?
As with anything new, “people don’t know what they don’t
know” and divorce is no exception. If you’re divorcing for
the first time, there are going to be things that you don’t know.
Since spouses are motivated to streamline their divorces, reduce legal
fees and stress, it helps to be
By preparing yourself before you retain a lawyer, you can hand over the
information to your attorney for immediate use. More importantly, you’re
helping your attorney do his or job effectively and efficiently. That
being said, here is a checklist so you can have a better picture of what
topics you need to discuss with your attorney and which documents you
need to gather.
If you have children:
- Tax issues
- Child custody
- Child support
- Parenting Plan
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- College education
- Dental insurance
- Estate planning
- Grandparents (visitation)
- Uncovered health insurance costs
- The children’s religious upbringing
- Fine art
- Boats or watercraft
marital residence (Is there equity?)
- Other real estate
- Any businesses
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Military pensions
- Professional practices
- Stocks, bonds, annuities
- Debts acquired during the marriage
Other issues to consider:
- Domestic violence
- Mental illness
- Restoration of maiden name
- Spousal support
- Restraining orders
- Substance abuse
- Life insurance
- Wills and trusts
- Advanced healthcare directives
- Parental alienation
- Parental kidnapping
- Dating before, during and after divorce
- Social media and divorce
- Contributions as a homemaker
As you can see, these are fairly long lists and they are not exhaustive.
What they do is give you a picture as to the types of issues that are
addressed in a divorce. Of course, each individual situation is different.
What will your divorce address? Much of it depends on whether you have
children, the length of your marriage, and your assets and debts, but
there are other factors that will determine the outcome as well.
For example, if you have children together is there an issue of substance
abuse, child abuse, neglect, or abandonment? All of these issues can impact
child custody. If one of you had an affair, that may not affect property
division unless the cheating spouse spent marital assets on their paramour.
If a cheating husband for example, was paying for his girlfriend’s
apartment or if he bought her a breast augmentation – these types
of facts could impact the divorce settlement.
If you’re headed towards a divorce, we invite you to
contact our office and schedule a
free case evaluation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys.